There is nothing quite like camping with your dog. Sunny, fun-filled days of exploring followed by quiet, starry nights by the fire. It’s deep-down in our DNA – we’re meant to share a hot dog and savor these moments of togetherness. But we also have a responsibility – not only to the people and pets around us – but to all those hoping to use camping facilities in the future.
Irresponsible behavior by a few pet owners can cause campgrounds to prohibit pets entirely. That’s why we must be considerate guests, so we’ll all be able to go camping with our best friends in the future.
Camping Etiquette for Pets & Their People
Follow the Rules – This may seem obvious, but it’s important to make yourself aware of, and then follow, the rules of the campground where you’re staying. Restrictions can vary widely, covering everything from acceptable leash length, to areas where pets are not allowed. Some campgrounds do not allow pets to be left unattended (even inside your camper or motorhome), so it’s important to ask for the campground’s pet policy before making your reservation.
Leash Up – Nearly every campground requires pets to be leashed, for everyone’s safety and happiness. Even if your dog is perfectly behaved off-leash, this is not the time or place to show off your skills. Some people and pets in campgrounds may be afraid of dogs, and subjecting them to the sight of a dog without a visible restraint is inconsiderate and unfair. Respect the rules and your neighbors and leash up!
Always, Always, Always Pick Up – Abandoned dog waste is a major consideration when parks, beaches, and campgrounds decide whether to allow dogs. You may think that your dog’s droppings don’t have an impact, but multiply that waste by hundreds or thousands of dogs over time, and it’s easy to imagine things piling up! You can even take things a step further … when picking up after your dog, if you happen to see abandoned waste, pick that up, too. You’ll be helping to preserve the reputation of all dog owners.
Mind the Noise – Camping can be a wonderful opportunity to immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature – and nothing will disturb the peace faster than the ear-splitting, prolonged grievances of a dog – so do your best to keep your pets quiet. Having treats handy will help distract your dog from squirrels, other dogs, or anything that might incite a barking jag.
The other time dogs can cause a disturbance in a campground is when they’re uncomfortable being left alone so, as much as possible, take your pets with you when you leave the campground. For the times when they absolutely can’t go along, run a quick test to gauge your dog’s reaction before leaving him. Start by providing your pup with a puzzle or food-stuffed toy to keep him busy, turn on some calming music, pull all the shades, then go move your car to other side of the campground and sneak back to your site to see what happens. If you hear your dog barking, you have some work to do before he can be left alone! Training your dog to remain calm while increasing the intervals that you’re away takes a lot of patience, but in the end, you’ll both be happy campers.
Think Twice About Tethering – Many campgrounds do not allow you to leave your dog tied outside – and for good reason! Pets left tethered can become prey for wild predators in the area, might get surprised by stray children, or could get tangled up and hurt. So stay outside with your dog, and be sure he’s tied far enough from any walking paths to keep him from charging people and dogs passing by. Finally, a DIY doggy zip line is often a better solution than a tether for keeping your pooch safe and happy.
Allow Others Their Space – Camping is an opportunity to relax and get away from it all – that may mean that, as much as your pooch would love to play, people and other dogs would prefer not to interact. Always ask before approaching a dog, and be understanding if your advances aren’t reciprocated.
Take Time to Train – Any new environment or experience provides a wonderful opportunity to expand your dog’s training, and old dogs can definitely learn new tricks! Camping provides countless opportunities to practice commands like come, sit, and leave it, and working together builds his confidence and strengthens your relationship.
Don’t Spread Bugs – Some campgrounds will ask for your pet’s vaccination records, but even if they don’t, it’s best to make sure your pal is healthy and up-to-date on his shots before taking him to an area with a high concentration of pets. This is particularly true when considering highly infections diseases, like the canine influenza that has plagued the midwest.
Watch Where You Walk – Campgrounds sometimes provide a designated “pet walk” area where dogs are meant to relieve themselves. It’s not always possible to get your pet there (especially first thing in the morning) unless you carry or drive them, but do your best. Whether there’s a specific pet walk area or not, never allow your dog to explore someone else’s campsite, or relieve himself on their tires, chairs, or other belongings. Retractible leashes seem to be most problematic in this situation, so be sure to pay close attention to your dog’s whereabouts if that’s your choice in leash options.
Be Prepared to Leave – Dogs can have bad days, or your pup may just not be ready for his first big camping trip – but you can’t know unless you try! So start out by planning short stays, and be prepared to leave if things aren’t working out. This is meant to be fun, and if you and you’re dog aren’t enjoying it, don’t suffer through – just try again another day.
Following these rules of the road just takes a bit of effort, but you’ll leave behind a great impression of all pet travelers as considerate, responsible guests. Thanks for doing your part to ensure that we all have opportunities to camp with our pets in the future!